Over the many years of having this blog I’ve tried and tested countless sports bras. I took it for granted that every active woman wore one but apparently, some research I shared back in 2016 showed that 40% of women do not wear a sports bra when exercising.
Personally, I think that sports bras are one of the most underrepresented pieces of kit for us ladies; they’re usually hidden away underneath our other layers and if they do a good job, we don’t notice as we are comfortable and pain free!
Why Are Sports Bras Important?
Sports bras are important because they minimise movement of the breasts during vigorous activities. It has been estimated that during high-energy, high-impact sports women’s breasts can move up to ten or more centimetres which means that anatomically there is not much natural support.
Sports bras can provide this support as well as allow sweat to be wicked away and reduce chaffing of sensitive skin or nipples. For women who consistently run or jump these factors can go a long way towards avoiding or alleviating breast pain as well as fighting the sagging of the breasts. (Breast Advice)
5 Sports Bra Commandments
I did some research back in 2014 (on Twitter) and came up with some golden rules, or as I called them, the 5 Sports Bra Commandments that we should all follow!
1. Wear A Sports Bra
Seems obvious but, as I mentioned, so many women don’t for various reasons I’m sure. Wearing a sports bra will save your bosoms from sagging as well as unnecessary pain which can be off putting when you start being more active.
2. Get Measured
I never thought that this counted for me because I have a smaller chest, but really, this is especially important for all women. You can get measured in most department stores are sometimes sports stores like Nike offer measurement too. For the longest time I always wore a small in the Nike pull on sports bras then found out my back measured an XS. Long gone are those days though!
3. Choose A Bra Suited To Your Activity And Bust Size
Running, aerobics, your daily HIIT classes and other activities which are high impact will need a high support bra. Yoga, pilates, ballet barre and other low impact activities will allow you to get away with the more fashion conscious bras which have very little in the way of support.
4. What A Sports Bra Should Be…
- Allow you to breathe and feel unrestricted
- A good fit.
- Non chafing
- Sweat wicking
- Keep you cool and dry
- Looks good
- Makes you feel good
I’d highly recommend that you try on a sports bra before you purchase (or ensure there is a returns policy) as that really is the only way to know if it is the right fit for you. You can use the tests that I’ve shared with you later to check if it’s the right size and fit.
5. Your Sports Bra Won’t Live Forever.
Just like your running shoes and other pieces of kit – nothing lasts forever. When you notice that it doesn’t quite feel the same, the elastic starts to fray, it’s stretched out…then it’s probably time to invest in a new ta ta tamer.
Running, aerobics and other activities which are high impact will need a high support bra. Yoga, pilates, ballet barre and other low impact activities will allow you to get away with the more fashion styled bras that have very minimal support.
How Do You Know What Size Sports Bra To Get
It’s all well and good saying that you should make sure your sports bra fits right, but how do you know which sports bra is the best for you, and how to test the fit? Below are a series of basic movements that you can do in a store changing room or at home to test the fit.
Here’s another statistic for you first…
Test The Cup Size
1. Squat Jump
If your breasts bounce significantly in the cups when you jump or land, the cup size is too large. If your breasts are squeezed at the top of the cups, the cup size is too small.
2. Forward Bend
You know the cup size is too big if you can see down the bra when you lean over. If your breasts are squeezed at the top of the cups, the cup size is too small.
Testing The Band Size
1. Side Lunge Rotation
Test your band size with a simple rotation. If the band moves with you as you twist, it’s too big. If your breasts or back spill out near the underarms, the band is too small.
2. Arm Raises
As you lift your arms, the band should stay in place. If the band moves up when you raise your arms, it’s too big. If your breasts or back spill out near the underarms, the band is too small.
I’m wearing the Reebok PUREMOVE Bra in the above imagery.
What To Look For In A Sports Bra For Running
Do you even need a sports bra for running? Well, yes. I would hope by now we agree on that. Back in 2014, I was regularly running and also leading weekly run clubs. During these sessions we spoke a lot about sports bras, the support required from a sports bra when running and how no matter how small your chest is you still do require support.
What type of sports bra is best for running?
When it comes to running, you have two options. Either encapsulation sport bras which have two cups like a regular bra or compression which is like a crop top that you pull over your head, and works by compression your breasts to your chest. Compression bras are most suited to women with smaller chests; encapsulation offers a much higher level of support.
How should a running sports bra fit?
When it comes to fit, everything above is relevant. Your sports bra should be snug but you shouldn’t be restrictive. And you can use the examples above, along with other running specific movements, to test the fit on your body.
Is it okay to wear a sports bra all the time?!
Well, maybe I will seek a professional opinion to share on this one but from my personal experience it does no harm. I wear sports bras 99.99% of the time whether I am exercising or socialising with friends. I think the most important point is that your breast tissue gets the support it needs (specific to what you’re doing!).
Sports Bras I Love and Recommend
Over the years, my most common activities have been HIIT / Interval training, Group Exercise, Cycling, Running and Yoga / Pilates. I like a mix of bright and bold as well as subtle colours when it comes to sports bra and I have a preference for a racerback, mostly due to comfort.
Here are some of my long time favourite sports bra styles…
Free To Be Bra Wild
The lululemon free to be bra wild is my go to either for low impact activities or for wearing under a summer dress. It’s a light support bra most suitable for A/B cups. As sports bras go, it’s quite a low cut at the front so if you’re more than the A/B cup recommendation then the support will be less and you’ll get a considerable amount of cleavage. Which works if it’s a under your summer dress staple!
Shock Absorber Ultimate Fly Sports Bra
The ultimate fly bra is one that I’ve found myself going to each week especially when cycling. It has more than enough support for running (if I were running right now!) but it’s comfortable enough for long days in the saddle.
It does up like a regular bra and has an extra clasp at above the closure for added support. The cups are moulded so it’s half way between one fo the bras that separates your boobs (encapsulation) and one that squishes your boobs together (compression)!
CHANTELLE Sports Bra – High Impact
This Chantelle High Impact Sports Bra is one that I actually got properly measured for as was so surprised by the outcome. I know that different brands measure bras in slightly different ways but I think this sizing took into account that I have a relatively small back. It does up like a regular bra and has a high coverage. It’s also underwired and has the moulded cups like a regular bra. I wear this sports bra for high impact activities like running
Shop Sports Bras:
Some more tried & tested sports bra recommendations:
I always appreciate that my opinion is not the only one out there as well as the fact that I can only speak from the experiences I have had with my body shape and the activities that I enjoy. Here are some more trusted recommendations from a group of Essex ladies:
As a busty girl, I always used to buy the M&S extra high impact zip up bras, and then I couldn’t get them in my size or just in dull white. I switched to a Shock Absorber Extreme Impact sports bra and I love it. Don’t know that I would go back to M&S now, and they are available in funky prints too. – Kate
Another vote for the Marks and Spencer zip front! Easy to get off, best support I’ve found! – Annabel
Bravissimo Inspire; It copes with CrossFit without pausing for breath – Abby
Shock absorbers, definitely. But just got a long line bra / top thing from Sweaty Betty which is fine for yoga, pilates etc. Nothing bouncy tho! ? – Amanda
Freya Active Underwire Sports Bra. They are amazing, underwired but comfy and like a normal bra so you don’t have to be a contortionist to get out of it when you’re sweaty! – Cath
So ladies, tell me that you wear a sports bra when you’re active! Got one you recommend? Or any specific questions?